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The Ancient Minstrel

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  784 ratings  ·  156 reviews
New York Times bestselling author Jim Harrison is one of our most beloved and acclaimed writers, adored by both readers and critics. In The Ancient Minstrel, Harrison delivers three novellas that highlight his phenomenal range as a writer, shot through with his trademark wit and keen insight into the human condition

Harrison has tremendous fun with his own reputation in the
Hardcover, 255 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Grove Press
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3.68  · 
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 ·  784 ratings  ·  156 reviews

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Andrew Smith
Jan 29, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
This was my first experience of Jim Harrison’s writing, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d done a little homework and know that he is in his seventies, writes poetry as well as fiction and that he had penned the novella that led to production of the film Legends of the Fall. And I like fiction set in the wide open spaces and small towns of America, so I was looking forward to this one.

There are three novellas here – well maybe two and a short story to finish. The forward was funny and self dep
Angela M
Dec 02, 2015 marked it as abandoned-not-for-me

I recently read another book about an aging poet , Thomas Murphy, so I can't help but compare the first novella in this collection to it and I can't help but be less than enthusiastic about this one. I fell in love with Thomas Murphy and I will remain faithful. I know that Jim Harrison is a beloved and prolific author and this was my first time reading him so maybe I ought to try something else by him.

This is story about an aging writer , an alcoholic who still drinks wine , has physical ailmen
Philippe Malzieu
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Dear Jim,
Yesterday I read this book, your last one. You say all, without hypocrisy, alcohol, women, money quickly spent,declining sexuality with age, a life to be burned. Too much excess. Your book is splendid by its beauty and cruelty. But somewhere, I felt some nolstalgia. When an author I like die, somewhere it is also a part of me who die. So I chose a bottle of Meursault (Château de Meursault 2002 Premier cru). It was your preferate wine. And I dreak to you, to your posterity, at the ogre o
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I stumbled upon this author because very good friends of mine recommended his work. Initially I was a bit leery but once I started reading I was quite blown away. Harrison has incredible gifts with language, and a phenomenal mind. He has a keen sensibility and a sharp humor. Humorously self-deprecating as well (always a plus to me).

This book is made up of 3 stories. They are interesting in their own ways but the 3rd I found most, mmm, problematic/disturbing?

Firstly, the strengths to me are the q
Jan 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC copy of this trilogy of novellas from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for and honest review.

The Ancient Minstrel is a collection of novellas that reflect upon each other in interesting ways although plot-wise, there is no relation. I found them to be quite deep and insightful and at times abruptly or at other times quietly disturbing, like a calm pond that discloses something ugly just below the surface. Something that snaps and bites.

The first novella—The Ancient M
Simon Robs
Dec 08, 2016 rated it liked it
JH's swan song novellas are meditations on his omnipresent themes and set pieces writ large one more time for all time.  A natural pathos of reflection and acceptance of finitude, an old man's well lived life on display unsentimental, humble and still, horny for young stuff even jailbait. He writes spare and sharp as a woodsmen axe, deft in portrayal of hunting, fishing, birddogs, cooking game and living wild with instinct, an unbridled appetite for all things vices. If there's no hint of sexual ...more
David Guy
Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
I’d like to say I’m Jim Harrison’s greatest fan, though there’s a lot of competition for that spot. I began reading him back in the eighties when my fellow clerks at the local bookstore raved about him. I started with Sundog and went through the entire oeuvre, have continued ever since. Harrison is perhaps best known for his first collection of novellas, Legends of the Fall, but has also written novels, poetry, and some offhanded essays, including a marvelous food column that he did for a couple ...more
Claudia Putnam
I kind of gave up on Harrison some years ago... too much of a sameness... though I loved his earlier work. I stopped after The Woman Lit By Fireflies. Not out of any real objection, just well... how many Tom Petty songs can you listen to, or countenance buying? NOT comparing Harrison and Petty, just saying that each kind of carries on at the same level with himself after a while.

Maybe it's the same with most writers.

But I did read this one because I am writing novellas myself these days and Har
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Harrison at his best. Three novellas. All great.

#1 is a false memoir, which makes you wonder which parts are true.

#2 "Eggs" is Harrison writing in a genuine (as far as I, male, can tell) female character, which he has done a great job of since "Dalva"

#3 is disturbing, on many levels, but it's what happened to Sunderson after the last book featured him ended.

As I write this, Harrison died two days ago at 78. As someone else tweeted about it, "The world feels smaller today." Harrison was not the
Apr 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I must say that Harrison went out in fine style. Two of the novellas here are among his best ever. 'The Ancient Minstrel' is a fictional memoir piece that is poignant, funny and beautiful; 'Eggs' is a fine female portrait, something that he often excels at (check out his novel, Dalva); I found the final segment painful to read and would only recommend it to his hardcore fans--my take on it is that he's using his detective character Sunderson to do a final exorcism of the writer's lecherous demon ...more
Ron S
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Three novellas from the American master, who died March 26th, 2016. Echoes of Sherwood Anderson, biographical fiction, and a surprise ending for retired Detective Sunderson.
P.J. Lazos
Oct 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
When I read the news you could have knocked me over with a well-placed word:

He was dead.

How did I miss that tidbit of information? How could I have not known that one of my favorite living authors is no longer walking about the earth plane? Shouldn't I have felt the cosmic shift of the planets as his spirit left? Why didn’t the Earth herself — for whom he was such a consistent and persuasive advocate — rise up in protest at his departure. In March 2016, Jim Harrison died of a heart attack. (
Mar 17, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kris - My Novelesque Life
Written by Jim Harrison
2016; 256 Pages
Grove Press
Genre: novellas, fiction

(I received an ARC from the NETGALLEY in exchange for an honest review.)


"Harrison has tremendous fun with his own reputation in the title novella, about an aging writer in Montana who spars with his estranged wife, with whom he still shares a home, weathers the slings and arrows of literary success, and tries to cope with the sow he buys on a whim and the unplanned litter of piglets that foll
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Just like Harrison to pass while I was in the middle of the first, memoirish and title story here. It has the ring of truth and is very funny and insightful about aging, writing, family, sex (per usual) and more, exactly what you'd expect. The second story, "Eggs," about another very strong woman, again gives the lie to the charge that Harrison is misogynist. Then, appropriately, retired detective Sunderson leaves the stage, along with his creator. Not Harrison's best, nor probably the place to ...more
Patricia Gallery
Apr 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Having read many of Harrison's books over the past 25 years I will say that I loved the title story/memoir and am comforted by these, some of his last, words. His love affair with his pigs in Ancient Minstrel reminded me of one of the best short stories I've ever read - Death of a Pig - by E.B. White. Both of these authors perfectly capture their relationships to the natural world through their pigs and convey a sense of peace in a otherwise disturbing world.
Oct 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Not overly impressed with these two novellas and one short story, although I somewhat enjoyed the second one, "Eggs," about the effects of abuse and a woman making her way basically alone in world, who loves chickens and living in country. Lots of things to chew on in the story.
Jun 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Three novellas, one of which is about an author who has much in common with Jim Harrison. Enjoyable, but not his best work.
Bob Peru
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
jim harrison is THE MASTER. of the novella yes. but his work is all of a piece. as forster observed "only connect". or some such. . .my favorite by far living writer.
John Mh
Mar 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I saved Jim Harrison's final (fiction) release until I was ready to read it, knowing there wouldn't be another afterward. I'm glad I got clear of the experience of reading the prior two, River Swimmer & The English Major, as both of those had left me with the impression that my hero was hastily churning output without proper (or any) editing prior to exiting the stage. Neither were great, both retread familiar Harrison themes, and I feared that The Ancient Minstrel would follow suit.

It did,
Daryl McGrath
Apr 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This collection of novellas is Jim Harrison's last. As I usually do with his novella volumes, I found it to be a somewhat mixed bag of literature.

The last story, The Case of the Howling Buddhas," is too short to call a novella, but it is typical of Harrison's earlier novellas that focus on sex, lust, drugs, and violence.

The titular story brings one back to Harrison's seeming obsession with teachers and professors. The broad theme seems to be looking back at one's life and pondering "what did i
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of three of Jim Harrison’s novellas. In two of the stories, the main character is an older man, normally past retirement age but continuing to work. The Ancient Mistral’s protagonist is a writer and former university professor who enjoyed the aspect of his job that gave him ready access to young females. He nearly achieves redemption in retirement in raising pigs, a lifelong wish he had.

The last of the three novellas is called The Case of the Howling Buddhas. In this story
May 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
I finished as much of this book as interested me. Skipped the first of the three novellas in this book, although true fans of Jim Harrison's stories, poems, and especially "Legends of the Fall" would probably enjoy this satirical take-off on himself. I skimmed the third, and shortest novella, "The Case of the Howling Buddhas," considering it literary porn and not much of a story. The second novella in the book, "Eggs" was a rather enjoyable read: the life story of a woman, who began as a young g ...more
Chris Giles
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Catherine disliked her neighbor who owned a big ranch to the east. It was the early 1960s and her grandfather had died three years before. Running the farm without him was lonely sometimes but she enjoyed it. The neighbor was a lawyer from Dallas and when he drove into her yard he laughed at the chickens she was raising. That embedded him in the mud forever as far as she was concerned. What a motormouth big shot, she thought. When they were raising money for the library he donated a thousand do ...more
Ricky Orr
Jun 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book consists of 3 novellas - The Ancient Minstrel, Eggs, and The Case of the Howling Buddhas. All 3 were exceptionally good and a bit hard to describe except for the the 3rd story.

The Ancient Minstrel is somewhat autobiographical. It is about a writer who looks back at his life and his legacy.

Eggs, my favoite of the 3 stories, follows the life of the heroine who has a deep affinity for chickens and eggs, and disdain for men.

In The Case of the Howling Buddhas, former Detective Sunderson, a
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
These are three very different novellas and I have three very different responses.
My favorite by far is The Ancient Minstrel - a faux memoir of a writer very much like the author. It has wonderful accounts of fishing, cooking, eating, travel, writer's block, raising piglets, wry observations of human foibles and beautiful glimpses of nature.
Eggs is one of his best portraits of a female character, damaged, autonomous, resilient.
The Howling Buddhas brings back Sunderson, to my mind once too ofte
Susan Messer
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of three novellas. I loved the loose, free style of the writing--seems to flow effortlessly without concern for transitions or resolutions while remaining continuously interesting and surprising and odd and eyebrow-raising. I'd give a lot to know whether it flowed that easily for Harrison as he wrote, or whether he struggled along as most writers do. I started but did not finish the third novella, as it was a bit too disturbingly framed for me, but the first two were richly ...more
Gaylord Dold
Mar 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Harrison, Jim. The Ancient Minstrel, Grove Press (Grove Atlantic), New York, 2016
(255pp. $25)

Midway through “The Ancient Minstrel”, the first in a trio of short novellas (or long stories), Jim Harrison pauses to reflect on the writing art and its relation to immortality. “…he knew very well that writers in weak moments have always historically looked for philosophical underpinnings for their work. There were none that were not nearly laughable. Such campaigns were almost always led by the weakes
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Classic Harrison. Three novellas. The first and second are exceptional; The Ancient Minstrel and Eggs. The third features one of his most decrepit characters ever; the pedofile detective Sunderson. This was Harrison's last published prose before his death. He seemed to lose some of his powers and prowess as he aged as we all do. His later stuff was nowhere near as good as his stuff in his prime; he became more vulgar, obtuse, perverted, more liberal and lame. I held of on reading this one becaus ...more
Michael Kitchen
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the first book I've read of Jim Harrison, which contains two novellas and a short story.

The Ancient Minstrel - 3

Eggs - abandoned after the first chapter...just didn't grab my interest.

The Case of the Screaming Buddhas - 4.
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Jim Harrison was born in Grayling, Michigan, to Winfield Sprague Harrison, a county agricultural agent, and Norma Olivia (Wahlgren) Harrison, both avid readers. He married Linda King in 1959 with whom he has two daughters.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

His awards include National Academy of Arts grants
“You can have a pretty good first line but not a strong enough thought to tag along more lines and sometimes in the middle words become bored and make war on one another. Notebooks are full of these fragments, shrapnel of our intention. Life is short on conclusions and that's why it's often a struggle to end a poem.” 1 likes
“He had always thought that a Native American should have shot Robert Frost for the outrageous lie of the line “The land was ours before we were the land’s.” What a scandal that would be, America’s best-loved geezer falling in a battle over poetry.” 0 likes
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